Folks, I wanted to give the community an update on what has been going on with the DMV and ask for community input as we move into next year’s session. As I have been investigating the issues, a couple of stories have come about that highlight some of the issues at our driver’s service centers across the state.
As many know, we have a driver’s service center(DMV) located off Middle Tennessee Blvd. They provide driving permits, driver’s licenses, road testing, renewals, handgun permits, and now they have Real ID. We, also, have three renewal kiosks located in Rutherford County.
Nobody enjoys going to the DMV. Nobody wants to wait. Nobody who values their health points to the DMV and demands a DMV style government run health care system. It is an essential government service that everyone points to as a prime example of government inefficiency. Despite upgrades or changes, it always seems as if the system is still behind.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been investigating some issues that have cropped up. Ironically, the economy is booming and our labor market has gotten tight. For employees, it is great in that wages have risen, and employees are in high demand in the workplace. For those hiring, including the government, it means one has to look for solutions in order to offer a productive and efficient service.
Between emails, phones calls and meetings with the Department of Safety, Governor Lee’s office, our Speaker and Finance chair, and leadership, I have been looking for some solutions that could benefit our citizens. As I’ve described my four step process on issues before, I wanted to explain my process on this issue.
PREMISE OR PROBLEM
Our DMV has been experiencing extended delays for services, including in the office and road test services. While this premise or problem seems to be the standard operating procedure for a DMV, we have seen a recent worsening of this problem.
A few years ago, I looked into the issue. What I discovered was that the state average wait for a road test was 12 days while Rutherford County was around 18 days. Some options were floated, but the direction the Department of Safety wanted to take was to offload services from the DMV site either via kiosks or having counties oversee some of the services.
Rutherford County did not participate in absorbing some of these services. With a tight county budget and personnel restrictions, I certainly understand the decision. (As an aside, Lisa Duke Crowell is doing an admirable job and is willing to work for solutions. She has the interest of our constituents and taxpayers in mind.).
In the end, the Department of Safety placed three kiosks in Rutherford County. These kiosks help with renewals and are located at Middle Tennessee State University, the Murfreesboro Driver Services Center, and Rutherford County Clerk (Smyrna).
Currently, there are three acute problems occurring at our DMV. First, is personnel. We are supposed to have 8.5 full time equivalent employees at the center. Unfortunately, we are down 3 employees due to vacancies. The Dept. Of Safety has increased their salaries and has hired 3 people to fill the vacancies, but they haven’t started yet. Additionally, I have been told that our DMV recently had a person on vacation, one out for surgery, and one sick. They were down to 2.5 employees which backed things up considerably.
In today’s job market, it is difficult to attract employees to work in a DMV. It is a thankless job that has high turnover. Ironically, as I discuss turnover and vacancy issues, one of the individuals with the department that supplied me with information is no longer there.
Secondly, with Real ID coming into fruition, we have had an influx of people needing new IDs at the DMV. There are kiosks in the county to offload renewals, but that doesn’t help with new or real ID’s. Thirdly, gun permits have increased, as well.
We aren’t the only center having issues. There are 43 other centers in Tennessee like our center in Murfreesboro. Statewide, there are 29 vacancies. In addition, statewide there is a road testing average wait time of 11 days. Unfortunately, Rutherford County seems to be hit exceedingly hard. We have 10% of the vacancies and our road testing wait time is 28 days. Only the East Shelby County Driver’s Center has a longer wait at 29 days.
Obviously, the goal should be to provide an efficient public service to the community in a cost efficient manner.
Self-governance is the cornerstone of our republic. So, I am more than open to listening to any options that may be presented. Please, contact my office if you have any. That being said, I’ve been having discussions on three basic options. Understand that the Department of Safety has given raises to employees, but that still hasn’t resolved the issue.
First, the Department of Safety is continuing to look at offloading services from the main office. They are partnering with County Clerk Office’s to have county government provide some of the services. Many counties have joined in the partnership. Rutherford County has not, as of yet. Secondly, adding more kiosks may allow for decreasing demand at the service center.
Third, with high turnover and need to cover vacancies, vacations, and sick leave, starting a float pool to either work in the office or provide road testing is an option that I have discussed with the Department of Safety and the Lee Administration.
Without significant financial outlay from the state to Rutherford County, it will be difficult for our county to participate in a partnership. With a tight county budget, personnel restrictions, and on the heels of a county tax increase, asking the county to foot the bill doesn’t seem feasible.
With a greater than 600 million dollar surplus, Tennessee should have significant non-recurring and recurring funds. Non-recurring funds could help with setting up more kiosks. Recurring funds could help with setting up and running a float pool.
The Department of Safety will be presenting their budget requests to the Governor soon. For our citizens, these services are a priority, and I’m pushing for them to address the concerns of our growing county.
As always, I’m honored that you allow me to serve.
Rep. Bryan Terry, MD